1 9 7 6 – 1 9 8 4 (UK)
Rentaghost was a British children’s stalwart for many years, running for nearly sixty episodes from 1975 to 1984.
Harold and Ethel Meaker lived in South Ealing and ran ‘Rentaghost’ where – as the name suggests – they rented ghosts out to the public.
Harold Meaker (Edward Brayshaw) had originally been the spooks’ landlord but took over the business when recently deceased ghost Fred Mumford (Anthony Jackson) couldn’t keep up with the rent.
Harold’s wife, Ethel (Ann Emery), also fancied herself as a bit of a singer.
Their plans always went very, very wrong, with hair-raising slapstick consequences. Like people turning into Batman. Or falling asleep.
The joke book humour flew thick and fast, often followed by lines like “Thank you for resurrecting that joke for its fiftieth birthday!” delivered straight to camera.
Over the years many ghosts came and went but the main Rentaghost crew comprised; Timothy Claypole (Michael Staniforth) – A jester at the court of Queen Matilda, the Dreaded Tyrant of the Twelfth Century, Hazel McWitch (Molly Weir) – The ghost of a Scottish witch, Nadia Popov (Sue Nicholls) – Audrey Roberts from Coronation Street affecting a cod Russian accent, Fred Mumford – who had originally founded ‘Rentaghost’ after becoming a ghost after he fell from a Cross-Channel ferry six months previously, and Hubert Davenport (Michael Darbyshire) – A distinguished Victorian gentleman.
Later episodes had a dully pantomimic quality (greatly enhanced by the presence of an actual pantomime horse as a regular character) and routinely ended in gleeful chaos around a rueful Meaker.
The Meaker’s next door neighbours, Rose and Arthur Perkins (Hal Dyer and Jeffrey Segal), were convinced that the Meaker’s were a pair of nutters and hired a private detective and tried to get a psychiatrist to convince them that they needed treatment.
Actor Michael Staniforth also wrote and performed the unforgettable theme tune. His original song had to be re-written as concern grew that it was too close to The Exorcist.
Lynda Marchal (who played Tamara Novek) achieved greater fame and fortune as a writer . . . under the name Lynda La Plante.
Molly Weir died in November 2004 aged 94.
Bernie St John